ISE-SHIMA (Reuters, AFP) – Group of Seven (G-7) leaders agreed on Thursday (May 26) they need to send a strong message on the South and East China Sea in which China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and some South-east Asian neighbours.
“Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe led discussion on the current situation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Other G7 leaders said it is necessary for G7 to issue a clear signal,”Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters.
European Council President Donald Tusk had said earlier on the sidelines of the summit that the bloc should take a "clear and tough stance" on China's contested maritime claims.
The comments came even as Chinese state media warned G-7 not to "meddle" in South China Sea disputes.
China's official Xinhua news agency published an article saying the G-7 - which excludes Beijing - "should mind its own business rather than pointing fingers at others".
Xinhua writer Chang Yuan accused Japan of "attempting to take advantage of its G-7 summit host status and draw more 'allies and sympathisers' to isolate China".
Beijing has angered several Southeast Asian neighbours by claiming almost all of the South China Sea and rapidly building reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
Both Washington and Tokyo - which is locked in a separate dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea - have warned against Beijing stoking tensions in the contested waters.
Chang wrote that such remarks showed "Japan's hidden agenda: to meddle in the South China Sea issue".
Weighing in on the South China Sea "exceeds the G-7's current influence and capability. What's more, it reflects a lingering Cold War mindset", Chang added.
The commentary came ahead of a ruling expected within weeks on China's claims brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague by the Philippines.
China has warned outside parties not to meddle in the South China Sea, but has also attempted to draw nations as far away as Niger, Togo and Burundi into the dispute, insisting that they support its rejection of the tribunal.
British Prime Minister David Cameron warned China that it must abide by the outcome of the international arbitration as he arrived in Japan for the G-7 summit, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Beijing summoned top diplomatic representatives from the Group of Seven nations including France and Britain in April to express anger at a joint statement on the South China Sea.
The G-7 said at the time: "We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and emphasise the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes."